College sports range across a wide spectrum, from Baseball and Basketball, all the way to Bass Fishing and Squash. These sports are played on 3 different levels, Divisions I, II, and III.
Despite more media coverage going to Division I and II schools, most college athletes actually compete at the Division III level. Which means that for most recruits coming out of high school the recruitment process is a little different than how most of us think it is.
According to official NCAA records, there are exactly 351 Division I schools, 308 Division II schools, and 443 Division III schools. There are currently around 176,000 current Division I athletes, just over 118,000 Division II athletes, and just under 188,000 Division III athletes currently enrolled.
In addition to the 3 NCAA divisions, there is also the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics with more than 250 campuses and even more options at the junior college level for high school recruits. So no matter what level you decide to compete at, there will be many options to choose from.
Let's quickly break down the differences between a Division III school compared to a Division I or II school.
Division I schools have much larger student bodies and athletic budgets compared to their Division III counterparts. They give out more athletic scholarships every year as well. Division I schools also have more practice hours and travel across the country significantly more than Division III teams who focus more on local competition.
Both divisions are full of motivated student-athletes who have spent years working on their craft and want to take their talents to the next level while also receiving an education.
Division III recruitment is governed by a completely different set of rules than Division I. Division III schools are not required to uphold the strict NCAA guidelines that are placed on Division I programs. This allows for more freedom but can also limit some capabilities.
Division III schools are allowed to send athletes recruiting materials, such as brochures or invitations at any time, unlike Division I. DIII schools can also contact recruits via phone call or any other method at any time with no restrictions. DIII coaches can even begin engaging with athletes off-campus after their sophomore year of high school.
Athletes are allowed to officially visit as many DIII campuses as they would like starting their Junior year, but can only visit a campus once. Unofficial visits however are completely unrestricted. Division III schools are also given the right to determine minimum GPA requirements themselves, whereas both Division I and II schools are subject to NCAA minimum GPA requirements.
If you are interested in attending a DIII program it is important to be aware of the more relaxed recruiting rules. Athletes should begin communicating with coaches as early as possible to help maximize not only their options, but also their time to find the program that fits their needs the best.